[MUSIC PLAYING] JACOB SPIEGEL: Welcome, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us. My name is Jacob Spiegel. And I'm the Chair of Israel Programming on Cornell Hillel's executive board. This is our second event of our conflict conversation series-- a series that was initiated in order to promote a meaningful and productive dialogue about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The series includes diverse speakers that present their perspectives about the conflict, talk about their lived experiences, and offer thoughts and hopes for coexistence in the region. I want to thank Cornell Hillel and the executive board, the Near Eastern Studies department, and the Judith Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies for cosponsoring this event.
The conversation tonight is titled Letters to my Palestinian Neighbor. And I am honored to introduce tonight's speakers. Yossi Klein Halevi is a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. He is the author of Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor, a New York Times best seller, in which he writes letters about Zionism and his connection to Israel to an imagined Palestinian neighbor.
He is also the author of Like Dreamers-- The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation, which won the Jewish Book Council's Everett Family Foundation Jewish Book of the Year award. Yossi has a bachelor's in Jewish studies from Brooklyn College and a master's in journalism from Northwestern University.
Tonight's co-speaker is Mr. Mohammad Darawshe, an Arab with an Israeli passport, a Muslim Palestinian citizen of the Jewish state. Like 20% of Israel's population he is, as he puts it, a child of both identities. Mohammad is a Shalom Hartman Institute faculty member and director of planning, equality, and shared society at the Givat Haviva Educational Center. He previously served as co-director of the Abraham Fund Initiatives and as elections campaign manager for the Democratic Arab Party and, later, the United Arab List.
Mohammad is considered a leading expert on Jewish-Arab relations and has presented lectures and papers at the European Parliament, NATO Defense College, World Economic Forum, US Congress, and Israel's Presidential Conference, among others.
Before we invite up Yossi and Mohammad, Brandon Senior, the event liaison from the University, is going to read a brief statement. Following their conversation, we will open the floor for questions. Thank you.
YOSSI KLEIN HALEVI: Good evening. Delighted to be here. Especially delighted and honored to be sharing the stage with my colleague, my friend, my teacher, Mohammad Darawshe. Thank you.
The book that I wrote about a year ago, Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor, is an attempt to begin a conversation over very difficult and painful topics-- a conversation of competing narratives. And the way in which I presented this book was as a series of 10 letters to an imaginary neighbor, Palestinian neighbor, and inviting Palestinians to respond.
And there have been many responses. And I'll speak about them soon. And the book was translated into Arabic and placed online for free downloading in Arabic and published the same day that the book came out in English. And the new edition of the book-- and it is the new edition you've seen, right? The new edition contains 50 pages of responses, primarily from Palestinians, with a few others from around the Arab world.
And the decision that I made was to give the Palestinian respondents the final word in the book. And I did that, first of all, really to honor their courage, their goodwill in responding. And I can tell you quite honestly that not all the responses were easy for me as an Israeli to read. Nevertheless, they were all written in a spirit of engagement and with great integrity.
And soon, within the next few months, a Hebrew edition of the book will be coming out. And that will hopefully trigger a different kind of conversation-- an internal Israeli conversation, which is badly needed on the Palestinian issue, because even today, on the left, there is an avoidance of a real conversation about the future of our relationship with the Palestinians.
And Israeli Jews have very comfortably settled in to the prolonged status quo. And so this book, in its Hebrew version, will be an attempt to try to break something of that silence around this issue in Israeli society today and trigger an internal Israeli conversation.
So really, the book has aimed at initiating multiple kinds of conversation. I know that there have been conversations within the American Jewish community on the book and between Israelis and Palestinians.
The reason that I chose this path of emphasizing a conversation on narratives is because neither narrative is going away, just as neither people is disappearing. And for many decades, Palestinians and Israelis have essentially fought a war of competing narratives, where each narrative has tried to vanquish the other narrative, to deny the legitimacy of the competing story. And they are competing stories.
On the Israeli side, that took the form most famously, infamously, when former Prime Minister Golda Meir, in the early 1970s, declared that there is no such thing as a Palestinian people, because in the early parts of the 20th century, when she moved to the land of Israel, the Arabs living in the land did not identify themselves as Palestinian.
I think she was wrong already then. But nevertheless, by the time she said that in the 1970s, she was certainly wrong. And yet, even today, on the Israeli right, you will very often hear that there is no such thing as a Palestinian people.
And the way this plays out on the Palestinian side, and really more broadly within the Arab world, is that there's no such thing as a Jewish people. The Jews are a religion. And the Jews are not a nation and certainly have no right to sovereignty. They have the right to be a religious minority living under Islam, as Jews did for many centuries, but certainly not to restructure themselves into a sovereign nation with a national identity.
And so these are really, in some sense-- this has been, to my mind, what the conflict really is about. And one of the reasons that I believe the diplomats who have tried valiantly for years to solve this problem-- and it often seems to me that there is a direct corollary between how much effort the international community puts into solving this conflict to how elusive a solution actually becomes. And I think one of the reasons why the diplomats continue to fail is because they lack the tools to deal with what this conflict really is about.
This conflict, fundamentally, is not about tangible issues but intangibles. Of course the tangible issues of settlements and borders and refugees and holy places, these are crucial components of the conflict. But on the basis of the conflict, to my mind, are the intangibles of identity, memory, the right to exist, the right to define yourself as a nation, trauma. And it's those issues that are elusive, that the diplomats really don't know how to deal with, because diplomats deal with a line on a map.
And if we ever do get back to the negotiating table, I would hope that we would not have only diplomats seated together, but also theologians, psychologists for sure, poets, historians, because I think we need a broader approach to peacemaking. And I'm a writer-- I should really say just a writer, not a politician. I don't have the power to make any decisions. I work with words.
And so what I've tried to do is create a language for Israeli Jews like myself who don't come from the left-- I come from the center, from the political center-- and for whom the subject of peace leaves many of us tongue-tied. We don't quite have a language that we feel we can own.
And so as a religious Jew, as someone who comes, as I say, from the political center-- and I'll explain a bit more about what that means later-- but I felt the need, really, to try to create a language that I could be comfortable with, a language for peace, for reconciliation, and a language that I hope will be useful for other Israeli Jews.
Earlier, I mentioned that this book is an attempt to create, to initiate, a difficult conversation. But I'd like to just give you an idea of how difficult that conversation is, because we don't only disagree. Palestinians and Israeli Jews have fundamentally opposite views of history. We have what I would call irreconcilable narratives.
Consider the year 1948. For me, as a Jew, 1948 really is the time of my people's redemption. For Palestinians, it's the time of their people's destruction. 1967-- I believe that 1967, the Six Day War, was an expression of Israel's right to self-defense. Speak to Palestinians or people throughout the Arab world, and they will define 1967 as an Israeli act of aggression.
The year 2000-- the collapse of the Oslo peace process-- like almost all Israeli Jews, my narrative of why the peace process failed was because the Palestinian National Movement was not prepared to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish majority state in any borders and insisted on refugee return not only to the state of Palestine but to the state of Israel. Now, speak to Palestinians, and their narrative is very different. Israel didn't quite make the generous offer that we think it made, et cetera, et cetera.
And so on the most basic elements of this conflict, Israeli Jews and Palestinians view reality, the facts, in diametrically opposite ways. And I was thinking, Mohammad, over the summer. You took us to meet-- I'm the director, or the co-director, of a program at the Hartman Institute called the Muslim Leadership Initiative, where we bring young, emerging Muslim-American leaders to come study Judaism, Israel, the conflict at the Institute in Jerusalem.
And Mohammad brought us to meet some leading figures in the Palestinian Israeli community. And one of the people that you introduced us to was the former member of Knesset, Haneen Zoabi. And Haneen Zoabi is quite a radical, strong Palestinian nationalist.
And she began her talk to us by saying, I don't understand what we mean by narrative. There's no such thing as narrative. There's only facts. And then she proceeded to lay out her narrative.
And what I understood from her talk was that the definition of a narrative is selecting those facts that conform with your reading of history and leaving out those elements of a competing narrative that would complicate the picture. And in this conflict, we all do it. We are all experts in creating narratives and denying that it's a narrative. It's always-- it's always a fact.
And so what I'm trying to do in this book is really have a conversation over narratives. And my starting point for this conversation over irreconcilable narratives is the hope that we can begin from a recognition that this is a conflict between two indigenous peoples and that that really is the tragedy of this conflict.
The consequences of denying Israel's right to exist-- and for 70 years, Israeli Jews have felt embattled. We've felt under siege. And we have felt our legitimacy denied. The consequences of that has been to really reopen the deepest Jewish trauma, which is the trauma of confronting-- repeatedly confronting-- the denial of our legitimacy, of our very existence.
And this war against Israel's legitimacy, against the Jewish people's right to create a majority Jewish state, has incited the worst fears of Israeli Jews and has been a tremendous weapon for the Israeli right. This is really one of the main, I would say, incentives for many Israelis to be drawn to the right.
And when I meet with Palestinians-- and I've begun having meetings with young Palestinians in the West Bank, very quiet meetings under the radar-- it is not safe for Palestinians to publicly engage in acts of normalization with Israelis. And so-- but we are having these meetings based on the book, young people who are reading the book and inviting me to meet with them.
And what I tell them is that Palestinians actually, for all of the extreme imbalance in power between Israelis and Palestinians, Palestinians nevertheless have a psychological edge over Israelis. They have a certain measure of psychological power over Israel. And that is the power to deny us or to grant us legitimacy in the Middle East.
Now, this is an extraordinary weapon. And I think that many Palestinians are aware of this weapon. And to my mind, it is a weapon that has long outlived its usefulness to the Palestinian cause, because it is only, again, further entrenching the right and even the hard right.
One of the understandable criticisms that I've received from some readers of this book is that, given the vast disparity in power between Israel and the Palestinians, how can I, as the occupier-- by what right do I have, as part of the occupying people, to expect of Palestinians a respectful reading of my narrative, my people's story? By what right?
And my response is, because understanding the Israeli narrative, the Jewish narrative, is one of the keys to unlocking this problem. Israel-- Israeli Jews are a very strange breed of occupier. I know of no other occupation, certainly in memory, where the occupying power not only worried that in ceding territory it would be diminished, but actually worries that in ceding territory it may not be able to adequately defend itself, which is an acute worry among many Israeli Jews, a worry that I share.
And as a result of this, most Israeli Jews today do not feel guilty for the occupation. They don't feel guilt for this vast disparity between power and powerlessness. And one of the reasons for that is that when Israelis look around the region, we feel vulnerable.
I would describe the Israeli Jewish psyche as a kind of a split screen in our heads. One side of the screen is Israel versus the Palestinians. The Palestinians are Goliath and Israel is David-- uh, the Palestinians are David and Israel is Goliath. On the other side of the screen is Israel in the region. And at least until the last few years-- things are starting to shift in the region. Israel is starting to find its place increasingly, with alliances, tacit alliances with the Gulf states, the Saudis, others.
Nevertheless, there still is the deep perception among Israeli Jews that, in relation to the region, we are vulnerable. And so Israeli Jews really live with this kind of contradiction. And because of that, the nature of the power disparity plays out in the Israeli Jewish psyche differently than, perhaps, one might perceive from the outside, looking at Israel.
One of the things that I've learned in my conversations over the last months with Palestinians is that we are stuck at a precise point where each side expects the other to move first. And each side, from its perception, as is so often the pattern in this conflict-- each side from its own perception is right.
On the Palestinian side, the argument is, why should you expect any gesture of goodwill, any recognition of your legitimacy from us when you're occupying us? First, take your boot off of our neck. And then we'll see about reconciliation, which is a very logical argument.
The Israeli argument, from our point of view, is also very logical. And that is that we don't trust the Palestinian National Movement. We don't trust its intentions.
And Israelis will go back to the year 2000-- Israeli Jews. And I keep saying Israeli Jews, because we have to be mindful that the conversation that we're having here is between two citizens of Israel-- one of whom is Jewish and the other of whom is Palestinian. And so in this conversation, there is some overlap on the Palestinian side. But there is also some overlap on the Israeli side. And Mohammad, I'll address that issue briefly. But I am sure you will as well.
And so in the Israeli Jewish perception, we tried to make peace in the year 2000. We offered a two-state solution. And the result was four years of the worst terrorism in Israel's history. That has had a crucial impact on the Israeli Jewish psyche.
The Israeli left effectively collapsed as a result of the Second Intifada and never recovered. In the last election, the Jewish left wing parties received a grand total of 11 seats, combined. And then there's the Arab List, which was another 13 seats. And that, basically, is the Israeli left today, out of 120 Knesset seats.
Now, the Israeli perception of the region-- of the Palestinian National Movement, in particular-- is that if we were to withdraw from the West Bank tomorrow, odds are that we would find ourselves facing a hostile border, which is our most sensitive border, because it is close to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and the major population centers.
And so what Israeli Jews are saying to the Palestinians is, OK, if you want us to withdraw from the West Bank, at least give us some guarantee that you are prepared to accept our legitimacy, our indigenousness in this land. And the word indigenousness is, to my mind, the key to unlocking Israeli Jewish opposition or reluctance to cede territory. And here again, I would say that both sides are right. Both sides, each from its own perception, is correct.
Another thing that I learned in my conversations with Palestinians-- and this should have really been obvious to me, but for whatever reason it wasn't-- and that is that this conflict can basically be reduced to one question. And that question is, who started it? Who is guilty of original sin in this conflict?
Speak to Palestinians or, more broadly, people in the Arab world, and they'll say the answer is obvious. The Jews started it. We were here minding our own business, living our lives, and as I've often heard you say, you imported the conflict. You moved to us. You emigrated-- the state of Israel emigrated to us. And so we have just been defending ourselves all of these years from your invasion.
From the Jewish perspective, we say it's the Arab side which are the aggressors. We came home. And from the Jewish point of view, that was an obvious extension of our identity, of the logic of our history. We maintained throughout the centuries of exile a kind of vicarious indigenousness with this land that we never gave up. And so we returned home. We repeatedly offered compromise. And the Arab world repeatedly tried to uproot us.
Now, the Arab counterargument is, well, you offered compromise. That's very generous of you. But you moved into my home. And then you said, well, let's share the rooms. And you wouldn't do that if I moved into your home. You wouldn't say that that's a generous compromise. And so we go in circles.
The tragedy of this conflict is that we press the deepest wounds-- the deepest historical and psychological wounds of both sides. For Jews, again, it is the wound of the denial of our very existence, our right to exist. And for Palestinians and for the Arab world, it's the trauma of colonialism, of powerlessness.
And each side has imposed its worst historical nightmares on the other, so that we, the Jews, are the latest incarnation of Western colonialism. And for us, the Arab world, the Palestinian National Movement, is the latest incarnation of the genocidal threat that rises in each generation to destroy us. That's what we've done in this conflict.
And in order to try to neutralize something of the pathological power of those historical memories and the ways in which we use and perhaps misuse those historical memories, we need to first begin to confront them. And we need to confront them by dealing with history, memory, and narrative.
You know, in America, there used to be a saying. And maybe there still is. When you want to say that something is irrelevant, you say, oh, that's history. Right? That's history. In the Middle East, if you say to Arabs and Jews, that's history, that's when we start paying attention. Oh, that's history. That's our story.
Arabs and Jews are in constant dialogue with our ancestors, with the centuries, with the millennia. That's what defines us. We are our story. And these stories are so deeply ingrained in us that they will continue to sabotage efforts to peace unless space is made and these stories are honored, are acknowledged. Otherwise, the stories will continue to disrupt any attempt to solve this conflict.
Let me say a few words about the relationship with Palestinian Israelis. And the challenge that I have as a Jewish Israeli is to create a shared civic space with my Palestinian fellow citizen, and at the same time, remaining faithful to the founding ethos of Israel as the continuity of the Jewish story and of a state that is responsible for the Jewish people around the world when Jews need that assistance.
And those twin commitments-- the commitment to democracy, to creating a shared civic space of full equality, of shared Israeli identity, not only formal equality-- and at the same time figuring out how to preserve, as well, Israel's commitment to its Jewish identity and to the Jewish people-- those two commitments are, for me, a natural outgrowth of my reading of Israel's declaration of independence.
And when I read the declaration, my understanding of what the vision of the founders of the state was the following. Israel was to be the state of the Jewish people, whether or not you as a Jew are a citizen of Israel. It was your homeland. And it would be the state of all of its citizens, whether or not you were a Jew.
Now, that's a very complicated identity to hold, under the best of circumstances. To hold those two identities in creative tension and then to try to hold those two identities under conditions of constant war and siege-- that has strained our ability to the breaking point. And yet that is precisely-- those are the two strands which I as an Israeli Jew am called upon to uphold.
In the last year, the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, passed the Jewish Nation-State law. The Jewish Nation-State law reiterates that Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people and then is silent about the other essential piece of Israel's identity, which is that we are also the state of all of our citizens.
Now, the moment you pass a law that only defines Israeli identity in one way or the other, you are doing violence to the essential balance between Israel's Jewishness and democratic nature, on which I believe not only the integrity of the state depends but even more deeply perhaps, ultimately, the existence of the state as we know it depends.
Now, when I think about our relationship-- when I think about the relationship between a Palestinian Israeli and a Jewish Israeli, and especially in the context of this book-- and here I wrote my story, my people's story. But as an Israeli citizen, you know that story. You know it from school. You were virtually force-fed this story in school.
And so the conversation that I have as an Israeli Jew with Palestinians is different with Palestinians who are citizens of Israel and Palestinians who aren't. And that's why I wonder about the value of this book for Palestinian Israelis, precisely for this point. When I meet with Palestinians, the response that I get is, we did not know this history at all. This is completely new to us. And I have gotten letters from Palestinians challenging every facet of this story, including Holocaust denial. And so there is a long process that needs to be undertaken.
With Palestinian Israelis, the conversation is going to have to be different. If anything, I would say that Israeli Jews need to learn something of your story. At least as much as you could know about my story, we need to learn about your story. I'll go on for another five minutes, and then we'll have a change of the guard.
I'd like to just make one last point on the very complicated relationship between the Jewish majority and the Arab minority in Israel, which is that, to my mind, the only act of discrimination that the state of Israel is permitted-- and I would even go so far as to say is obliged-- to uphold is in granting Jews the right of return. Jews from around the world-- that there needs to be one place-- I would call it affirmative action for the Jewish people-- there needs to be one place on the planet where Jews have a guaranteed safe refuge if they need it.
I hope that there will be a Palestinian state. And I imagine that one of the first acts that a Palestinian government would do would be to pass a law of return similar to the one that we have for its diaspora. And so my vision is two states. Each state has its own law of return in which those of its diaspora who want to be part of that society will be granted automatic citizenship.
And the last point that I'd like to make is what I'm learning-- and it's really an ongoing process-- about how to be a peacemaker. And the first point that has become very, very clear to me is the need to express empathy, to really listen deeply to your neighbor's story, your neighbor's traumas, suffering, but at the same time not surrender your own story, to uphold the integrity of your own story, because that really is how this kind of conversation can happen.
And the second-- and I'm learning this all the time-- is don't give up on your opponent, no matter how horrified you are by your opponent's views. And I mentioned a moment ago that I have heard expressions of Holocaust denial from Palestinians. I received a letter in response to the book a few months ago from a Palestinian in the West Bank who wrote to me an eight page letter.
And he writes that the whole history that I presented is a fiction. And he said, I don't mean to offend you, but obviously the Jews have exaggerated what happened in what you call the Holocaust. And then he ends the letter by saying, and in conclusion, I would be delighted to meet you.
And I looked at that letter, and I said, OK, what do I do with this? And I wrote him back. And, you know, I asked for it. Right? I sent out this book. I invited Palestinian responses. And he responded in a very-- his tone was very reasonable. He was engaged. And so we had lunch. We met.
And when we met, I realized-- I realized from the conversation that we had that he wasn't so much trying to delegitimize me but quite the opposite. He was actually trying to engage me in a conversation.
What he was saying to me, in effect, was, listen. You've written this book. And now I've read your book. But it is the complete opposite narrative of everything that I've ever read and learned. So tell me, what is it that I'm missing? Maybe there's something here that I need to understand. And I want to learn that from our conversation.
And there was something deeply moving in that encounter. And we're now in contact. And my goal isn't to convince him of anything. My goal is simply to be able to have this conversation over competing narratives. And if he's willing to have that conversation with me, I'm willing to sit with him and listen to even the most painful take-downs of my people's story.
The other point that I'm learning is to try as much as possible to embody peace. And this is a lifelong struggle. Certainly, for me, it has been a lifelong struggle. I'm the son of a Holocaust survivor. I come from-- in my youth, I was very much on the right. And I have had to fight the demons of my own Jewish anger, my own inherited anger. And that's really, as I say, a lifelong struggle. But to try to make peace, one needs to confront the obstacles in oneself that really prevent you from being peace. And so that I would just like to put on the table as well.
And the last point is to try as much as possible, when you're having political conversations and you're really trying to get somewhere, you're trying to have some kind of a breakthrough, to avoid absolute certainty, to have some humility in your conversation over politics. Politics is not religion. Politics is dealing with the world as it is and trying to make it a bit better.
And one of the people who I feel is, for me, a hero of this political approach is you, Mohammad. This really defines who you are. It's dealing with the world as it is, with all the pain and the circumstances as they are, and trying to keep moving us forward.
In today's discourse in Israel, increasingly in your country, politics and religion are being confused. The passion with which people used to reserve for their religious faith is now, in an era of increasing lack of religious faith, being transferred to politics. Politics is not the arena for Utopian expectations. Utopianism, Messianism, belongs in the realm of religion. And even there, one has to handle with extreme care.
But certainly, the politics that I see emerging in parts of Israeli society and, frankly, in large parts of American society on both the right and the left is the politics of religious ecstasy without religion. Well, there is that too, of course, in parts of the right. But there is this hunger for a substitution for faith. And politics is not the place to bring that to. Politics is a place for idealism, for commitment. It is not a place for absolute certainties.
And so that is, in sum, for what it's worth-- those are some of the lessons that I'm learning that I'm trying to internalize. And thank you for listening. And Mohammad, thank you for engaging.
MOHAMMAD DARAWSHE: Good evening.
You know, reading the book and listening to you, I feel an urge to both disagree with you and, at the same time, agree with you. And I think this is the power of the book-- that it creates a space where it forces a discussion. It forces a dialogue. It forces dealing with issues that many people try to avoid.
I think that both Israelis and Palestinians are so busy with their self-righteousness, trying to find ways to justify each own's narrative by avoiding even listening and hearing and understanding, let alone legitimizing the presence and legitimacy of another narrative. We're so busy into that that we lose perspective of what the conflict is about and, actually, who we are.
I would dare say, in where I differ with you, I do not think that the problem is over narrative. I think that the problem is over identity, because for me, as a Palestinian, the land of Palestine is part of my identity. It's part of my religion. It's part of my skin. I feel it in my own body.
When I speak of a homeland, I don't speak in political science terms. I don't need to borrow a concept-- not from Hegel, and not from Marx, and none of those political scientists to describe to me what national identity means. I go to my 64 olive trees and I understand it from there, because they are 400 years old, and I know that my great great grandfather planted them.
And each one of those 64 trees that I inherited has a name. And usually, they're named after an aunt or after an uncle or after a grandfather. So the sense of belonging is not a matter of a story. And I think that we do injustice to our perception and understanding of the area when we talk about it just in terms of narratives and in terms of political science and historic perceptions.
I think that identity, in both cases-- both the Palestinian and Israeli case-- is focusing on the very basic concept of victimhood. We both compete who's more victim than the other in history, whether it is in the last 100 years-- Jews being victims of the Holocaust, with 6 million people being killed-- saying no other nation has ever experienced that kind of disaster and that kind of atrocity, while the Palestinians say, well, we are the victims of the victim, which qualifies us to even much more significant position. But it doesn't end in the last 100 years.
It goes way back. We still compete and disagree on, who did Abraham want to sacrifice? Was it Isaac or Ishmael? I can easily stand here and prove to you that it was Ishmael. I can bring 1,000 sources to prove it, including even some Jewish sources.
And I'm sure that Yossi can come after me and bring 1,001 supporting documents to prove that it was Isaac. And believe me, I'll be able to go bring two additional sources to prove it was Ishmael.
And we we're engaged in this for the last at least 1,400 years, since Islam came into the picture-- competing over identity and competing over the position of the victim. Was it Isaac or was it Ishmael? We want to be the children of the victim, because that also-- that connects us to the-- it's the lineage. It's the identity of being the children of Abraham, the favorite son of Abraham. Who was the favorite son? He wanted to sacrifice his favorite son.
But both forget the fact that neither was actually the victim. What was the victim?
YOSSI KLEIN HALEVI: The ram.
MOHAMMAD DARAWSHE: It was the ram. That's why many of you are vegetarians, right? And in this debate about victimhood, we justify a lot of atrocities. We justify a lot of actions, mostly-- and I would say the atrocities are not just the killing of human beings. These are, yes, atrocities. But I think the biggest atrocity is the delegitimization that we do to each other, because delegitimization goes through a number of processes. One of it is dehumanization.
You know, when you start thinking of the other as the enemy, you start, through the process of dehumanizing the other side, to make it easy for yourself to hate or to defend yourself by saying, well, I am the righteous, and they are not. Why? Because they don't think like us. They don't have the same moral structure like us.
So in a way, it is a battle over morality. We're fighting over morality. Who has the moral story? Who has the just, moral story that takes the other into consideration?
What I found in your book, Yossi, is-- one, the willingness to be respectful in the dialogue, the willingness to extend respect and honor to the perception, the identity, and the story of the other. And in expressing your own narrative and identity, you did not try to delegitimize the other story. Yes, you do recognize that I have a different story and a different narrative of October, 2000.
Who started it? I know exactly who started it. When Sharon went to al-Haram Sharif and desecrated it, that's a desecration. So for me, you can tell me 1,001 stories that it's something else. But I know my fact. And I think, even, I can convince you with that fact. But even if you know the fact, it's not going to be convincing enough. You'll be convinced by the fact. But you've created the story that you live with it easily, because it fits with your identity.
The same thing about who started the war in 1967, about 1948. 1948, for me, is not something to celebrate. It was the destruction of my people. It is the Nakba. It is the disaster for the Palestinians. For you, yes, it is the rebirth of the Jewish nation, where you've regained power. No more-- never again someone is going to challenge your security and safety. So it does provide you, finally, with a sense of safety net that you control your own destiny by creating your own country, with blinding at least one eye of what did it cause the Palestinians.
But I think that the power of your book is by being able to say, yes, I recognize that there is a different story. And for the Palestinians, the 15th of May, 1948, is a painful moment. And the fact that you recognize that allows me to be able to say, OK, now that you recognize me first of all as a human being that has pain and has legitimate pain, then you can ask me to look at your pain.
And you said something which I disagree with-- is that you think that you're waiting for the Palestinians to recognize the Jewish right to come home and that this can happen-- actually, you debated it in two places of who has to recognize the other first, who has to be more welcoming and more generous in recognizing and legitimizing the other first. Basically, it's a reflection of the power structure.
Usually, I would say, at least in my culture, that we know [INAUDIBLE] say, the powerful has to make the first step forward. If you have the power, you can allow yourself to be generous. If you are weak and you're more generous, actually, you are surrendering. And it's asking the Palestinians to surrender their will and surrender their dignity by saying, we surrender to the will of the Israeli Jewish Power by now recognizing their right to come and take over our land.
Now, you mentioned the term, returning to our homeland, and the concept of justification to returning to the homeland. And I have no argument at all with this. I do think that, for the Jews, the land of Palestine slash Israel is also their homeland. I have no argument about this. It's part of my narrative also. It's part of my historic narrative as a Palestinian, as an Arab, as a Muslim, that Jews do belong to that part of the world.
But you have the right to come home as a returning child. And as a returning child that comes home, they need to be a little bit more humble, a little bit more respectful for the other brothers and sisters that stayed home, and not to come and say, those brothers and sisters that are home now, I have the right to kick them out. I have the right to step on their neck, as you say.
And again, it goes back to the issue of dignity and respect. I think what you're missing a lot in the relations between the Palestinians and the Israeli Jews is the concept of respect, dignity, and empathy also. I think that there is not enough empathy in the Palestinian and Arab world to the Jewish people and to the Israeli story and to the Israeli citizens. There is not enough empathy.
They only think and look at them as the powerful, almighty that have partnered with international forces to come and occupy Arab land-- very little empathy regarding what Jews have gone through, at least in their last 100 years, let alone the last 3,000 years. There is not enough empathy in there.
And we even see that there is some use of-- there's some attempt to delegitimize the Jewish narrative in order to score points. All Arab Palestinian citizens study about the Holocaust, about the Shoah-- all of us. My kids, our four kids that are [INAUDIBLE]-- one is still in high school. Three are at university.
They all took the Holocaust studies that were done by the Israeli ministry of education. And in order to get your matriculation degree, you need to pass the test, and you need to give the answers. And the answers are very clear. You need to say that 6 million Jews were killed. You need to say, Hitler did this and that. There were camps. There was this. There was that. You need to do it.
And 97%, 98% succeed in the test. We know how to absorb the information. And we know how to put it back in tests that are given by the minister of education. Come back three days later after the exam. You ask the question-- a simple question-- did the Holocaust happen? 57% of Arab kids say, no, while a day before, three days before, in the test, they said yes, to get the grade.
Then you ask the second question. Well, do you really think it happened or not? And they will say, yes, it did happen. So why do you say, no? And their answer, the regular answer-- the Jews do not recognize our pain. They caused us so much pain.
And we know that if we deny their narrative of the Holocaust, that will make them feel painful. We want to cause them pain by denying their story. And that's why we tell them that. When they start recognizing our pain, we will recognize their pain. It's the tit for tat type of dialogue.
The problem with dialogue is that how to start it. It's hard to repack it. There's a system in dialogue that goes-- it's called backtracking. When you get stuck in a certain point, you say, OK, well you started the previous stage. So who started the October, 2000 clashes? Who started the war in 1967? Why? Because you did this, you did that. We start backtracking, as I said, until we reach Abraham. That's pretty much where we get stuck.
But the problem with it is that it does not resolve the issue. Recognizing and understanding another narrative doesn't solve the problem. And as you said, I know and understand and accept and legitimize the Jewish narrative. And I've learned it from many good Jews. But I also know where to disagree with it. I know that understanding a narrative doesn't mean that I have to give up my own. Actually, understanding the Jewish narrative has helped me even refine my own narrative and refine my own identity.
But the problem with it is that some people that do not understand enough, that have not learned enough, would come up with a conclusion saying, I used to hate Arabs. Now I know why. Or, I used to hate Jews. Now I know why. Because they only see one part of the story. They don't see the bigger point.
So that's why I'm not that excited about dialogue for the sake of dialogue, because it gets you stuck at some point, saying, OK, now I understand how deep the problem is. It's not just about the 1967 borders. 93% of the land will be Palestine and only 7% will be swapped, or 3%. It's not only about the technical resolution.
Going into narratives and identity issues gets us stuck in a place that formalizes the perception that the other is the enemy today, was the enemy yesterday, was the enemy generations back. And that's why I prefer a different two types of dialogues. One, which is in social sciences called the social contact theory. It's the humanization. It's how do we understand that the other side is a human being where we can share cultures.
I find it much easier to interact with an Israeli Jew that speaks Arabic, because if I throw a joke in Arabic, he probably will understand it. If he comes to Nazareth, to my town, he doesn't just come for hummus. He can go and see a play. He can see a show. He can realize that I have a cultural, that he can experiment.
So that culture-sharing aspect, as long as we do not share common language and common-- we cannot create common identity. I mean, ultimately, the solution has to be, can we create a third narrative? You call it Israeli identity. Right now, there is Jewish identity of the state and there is an Arab identity of the Arab Palestinian citizens in Israel, and as well as the Palestinians.
But are we ever going to emerge into creating inside Israel, for example, an Israeli identity that would be inclusive to both Jewish and Arab citizens in Israel? Will the Palestinians and the Israelis be able to engage in a third narrative without having to go through resolutions of the problems? And I think as long as the conflict is still alive, we're not going to be even to start that process.
So in individual levels, I think it's easy to do it. It's easy to prove to Jews that Palestinians are human beings. And it's easy to prove to Palestinians that Jews are human beings. That's simple. You bring people together, have coffee together. Interaction makes humanization. Conflict and separation and segregation produces dehumanization, and later, even racism.
So that process is easy. And I think it's missing. The fact that you're able to interact and you had the courage-- and I think the word courage has to be mentioned here-- you did exemplify tremendous courage by, one, writing the book in Arabic and even more courage with the Hebrew version coming out.
The dialogue that you had with the Palestinians is going to be a really simple dialogue that you had. The true dialogue is going to be with the Israeli Jews who are stuck in their perception of their truth, their narrative, their identity, and have not allowed themselves to go through the empathetic road and legitimizing road and understanding road and honor and respect that you've extended in your book.
So first of all, I want to thank you for your courage. I want to express my deep appreciation for that courage. It's not an easy road to have taken.
But I think that, in your next book, you should look at additional aspects. The additional aspect is, what are the results that we want from this dialogue? Dialogue for the sake of dialogue is fun. And it's also-- sometimes, it causes a lot of stomach ache. It's not easy to get the eight pages that you received and to even respond to them and want to meet with the other.
Dialogue can be fun. But at the same time, it can be difficult-- emotionally difficult. Yes, I agree with you that we probably need more psychologists than political scientists to facilitate our dialogue, because we probably need to go into a lot of therapy into this conflict resolution process.
I work with kids, mostly. I'm an educator. I work with Jewish and Arab kids that come to my campus, the Givat Haviva Center for Equality and Shared Society. And we bring Jewish and Arab kids for their first time ever meeting the other-- the first time ever meeting the other.
So at the beginning, there is that excitement of, yes, I'm meeting someone new, someone that I've always thought of him through a stereotype, through the perception, through a lens. And we know, within three days-- we've mastered the art of dialogue-- that within three days, we can bring kids that, when you ask them at their intake-- we give them-- we have an index. We call it the racism index, try to measure your level of racism.
Jewish kids usually come with a level of about 68% racism. We ask a set of about 55 questions. And if you check 30-plus negative, then you qualify to be racist. So Jewish kids reach the level of 68%, Arab kids the level of 58%. But we know how to unmake racism.
Within three days of educational intervention-- some call it brainwash, we call it educational intervention. It is educational intervention. We know how to reduce racism rate from 68% to 12%, from 58% to 10%. But there is a problem. And the problem is that these kids go home-- what we call the returning home syndrome.
And when they go home, their parents say, ah, they did brainwash you. They kidnapped you, those aliens at Givat Haviva Center, peace education center-- we're aliens. They kidnapped you. They brainwashed you. We'll bring you back to your senses-- basically, to mainstream position, which sees the other as the enemy. You need to keep thinking, come back to your senses in seeing that the other is the enemy. You only met the few good Arabs. The rest of them are not like that. You only met a few good Jews. The rest of them are not like that.
So this process of returning home actually pulls them back to the original perceptions, trying to wipe away the interaction that they had, which means there's some kind of an expiration date. And usually-- and our evaluation has shown that within 3 to 12 months, our intervention is eliminated. Our impact is wiped away. It's wiped out completely, doesn't exist. The kid that has experienced that experience, although it was significant and had a huge impact on him, it gets lost after three months to 12 months.
So we want to examine why. What's wrong with this? So one of the problems is that it's not consistent. People go back to their segregated reality, their separate and segregated reality, where residency is separate, schools are separate. And the separation feeds exclusiveness. The separation feeds fear.
You need to-- the enemy is not just an enemy. You need to be afraid of the enemy. And you need to develop defenses. And part of the defenses are the hate, are the stereotypes, because this way you can justify why you should fight them.
So we found that the most important thing to do is consistency. Instead of bringing kids for three consecutive days, for example, we find better results by holding three separate days. Like one every month, we will have a day. So they go back home, and they [INAUDIBLE] what they experienced with us back with their community once and again and again. So the returning home syndrome is broken into smaller pieces.
And the second thing, also, we found is that you need to put a component of mutual interest. So it's not just dialogue about identity and narratives but about how can we work together on something of mutual benefit, such as environment. So go clean the beach together.
Cleaning a beach together or cleaning a forest together has more power and more impact in the sense of legitimization of the other than talking for eight hours. Why? Because it allows the other to see that that person also belongs. They care about the same environment. They care about the same beach, about the same forest. It's also their forest. They're not strangers to the land. It does the legitimization process very, very deep.
The other point that I want to also mention-- I'm realizing that time is running-- is that there's a problem in Israel, in the Israeli Jewish public. You alluded to this both in the book and also in your comments here-- that sees the Palestinians as, in best case scenario, goy or [INAUDIBLE]-- stranger. The Torah commands the Jews to be kind towards them, which does show some kind of generosity and acceptance and legitimization, but it does have the hierarchic structure between the home owner and the stranger.
I'm 27th generation in the same town I live in today. My kids are 28th generation. I do not feel as a stranger. I will not feel as a stranger even if there is a lot of force to try to make me feel as a stranger. Yes, I did say that I did not immigrate to Israel. Israel did immigrate to me. That doesn't mean the problem is with me. Maybe the state has to adjust itself to me. It has to accept the presence-- not only my presence, but how to fit itself to my size as well. And that's a missing element, component, in the formula.
The nation-state law that passed on the 19th of July, 2018 doesn't only say that the state of Israel is the state of the Jewish people. The subtext of it-- and, you know, my undergraduate degree is in English literature. And the professors of literature teach you how to read the subtext-- not to read the text, but to read the subtext.
So when it says that the state of Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people, full stop, it means that it's not my homeland. It means it's not my country. But when I go to my 64 olive trees, it is my homeland. When I look east from my bedroom, towards Mount Tabor, I know exactly which angle the sun rises in the summer and which angle it rises in the winter. It's my homeland.
And this scene hasn't changed for my 27, 28 generations. My grandfather has been telling me, look at the angle where it rises in the spring or the winter or the summer, so that my relationship with the homeland has nothing to do with the Jewish presence in Israel, whether majority or minority.
Where is that challenged? It's challenged in the books of law and the policy of the state of Israel, where the state deliberately comes to me negating the Declaration of Independence, which did recognize my right to be there. It even called us the children of the Arab nation and later started even using the term [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]-- the Arabs of the land of Israel, which is a term that is associated, usually, with something indigenous-- a plant of the land of Israel or an animal of the land of Israel.
And that gave some kind of legitimacy at the beginning. But over the last 70 years, that started decreasing time and time again to try to limit our presence in Israel from full equal citizens to residents that should be grateful that they are allowed there. That's what the nation-state law does. It delegitimizes my legitimacy to be a home owner, a shareholder of the state.
Going back to your book, I think your book is a huge step towards the Palestinians. It does allow Palestinians to start going into the heart and mind of what's important the centrist Israeli and not just the left wing Israeli because the left wing Israeli does not tell the real full story. You usually tend to tell the Palestinians what they would like to hear.
And I think it's more important that the Palestinians understand and hear and legitimize the mainstream story in the Israeli Jewish community. I think that's when the Palestinians will be able to mature in their perception and understanding of who are their future partners in the land, whether it is two states, one state. We're not going into this discussion right now.
But Palestinians and Israelis-- Israeli Jews, mainly, in this case-- are stuck together. We're destined to continue to be together. We need to find a working formula for the political dispute over land and over sovereignty. We need to find that kind of dispute.
But it's like negotiating two things at the same time. One, it's like negotiating a divorce agreement, where you need to find clarity of how you're going to split the house. Which rooms belong to this parent? Which rooms belong to the other parent? And I'm deliberately using the term "parent," because in this marriage that needs to be broken, there are a lot of children.
And those children are not just human beings. Those children are holy places that you probably need right to visitation for both sides. Those children have families in both ends of the border. Those children are environmental arrangements, economic arrangements, animals that need to be allowed to pass from under the wall and under those borders. We have a lot of mutual interests. And the children here are the mutual interests.
Whatever peace agreement is going to be, it's not going to be just a divorce. Actually, it's negotiating the new marriage agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis. And I think a two-state-- and I do support a two-state agreement. But I think it's going to be a temporary arrangement that's going to lead to an immediate discussion of how these two states not necessarily merge into one state, but how can they engage in some kind of a federal structure that allows openness to allow this shared destiny to continue together.
Shared destiny doesn't mean that we eliminate our own identity. It doesn't mean we eliminate our own sense of righteousness. The fact that I believe that, when I close my eyes and I think of Palestine, I do not think about 1967 borders. For me, when I think of the concept of Palestine, it is the river to the sea.
And I think that the same thing-- if you dream of the land of Israel, you do not dream about 1967 borders. I don't think we need to compromise dreams. What we need to compromise is how do we implement those dreams.
And the implementation requires two things-- one, willing leadership; and second, willing public. And today, we are stuck in a situation that maybe we don't have such willing leadership. But slowly, we're losing also the willing public to engage in a peace process.
I think that the misery and the tragedy of the Oslo negotiations was that the political leaders moved very fast into implementation, forgetting that they need to bring the public on board. And the fact that the public was not brought on board created the gap which resulted with the killing of Rabin in Israel in 1995.
So we need some kind of a process that engages both the public and the leadership to be willing to engage in some kind of a peace process. I think that the gesture you've given to the Palestinians by telling your story needs to be met with a Palestinian gesture of someone coming and writing letters to their Israeli and Jewish friends. I think there are a lot of untold stories there.
The more we talk, the more we understand, the more we create empathy, the more we're able to talk about how can we make it work. And I think it works. And I think, ultimately, we can make it work. The way to make it work is, first-- the first thing is to understand that the other is a human being, has a story, has legitimacy. But at the same time, we need to figure out the technical solutions. The problem cannot be resolved just in dialogue. It can be resolved by actual results on the ground.
The results today are in the shape of some sense of justice. And there is no absolute justice. I don't think there will be absolute justice. Justice for the Jews is the land-- the old, traditional land of Israel, which comes from the Euphrates to the Nile, probably. Justice for the Palestinians-- without any Jews in the place.
But a sense of justice-- basically, to correct what is possible to correct, to reduce human suffering, to put human beings as the basic element in any resolution, and to bring the concept of equality into the formula. And with that, I end, because if we only talk about dialogue and coexistence, you could end up with a wonderful coexistence relationship as you have between a horse and a rider, if you do not challenge the power structure.
You can have fantastic, beautiful relationship of coexistence between a horse and a rider, but there's clear hierarchy. And the hierarchy is obvious when they go home. The horse goes to their stable and eat hay. And the rider goes to their castle and eats a steal. And if you're French, it becomes a horse steak.
That's why the concept of equality has to come in. And when we talk about two nations, equality needs to be, in political terms, between Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, I think it has to be the two-state solution. So it's not just dialogue about narratives. It's dialogue about the results.
And when we talk about equality between Jewish and Arab citizens, it's not just social and economic equality. It's also power sharing. We're talking about tomorrow-- tomorrow's Thursday, right? I've been traveling. So I'm losing sense of days.
Tomorrow, there will be meeting between Benny Gantz, who is now mandated to form a new coalition and become the prime minister in Israel, with Ayman Odeh, who is the head of the Arab Joint List, to discuss potentially the Arab List and the Joint List joining the coalition. The meeting is going to be at 3 o'clock, Israel time, tomorrow.
This is the first time this kind of dialogue is taking place in 20 years. The last time this dialogue had took place was in May, 1999, when Ehud Barak was elected as prime minister. And for the last 20 years, there has been pretty much exclusion of the Arab political parties and delegitimization of the Arab political parties from being part of the power structure in the Israeli political scene.
I hope that the beginning of the negotiations will result with some kind of agreement. And I do not think it will result with the Joint List joining the government. But at least it might create a different atmosphere, a different atmosphere of dialogue that does legitimization, which your book does it. It legitimizes the Jewish narrative towards the Palestinians.
And what's more important is that you took the letters that you received from the Palestinians and put them into the new edition to legitimize the Palestinian perspective to your Jewish readers at the same time. So I applaud you. And I look for your next book as well. Thank you very much.
SPEAKER 1: [INAUDIBLE]
YOSSI KLEIN HALEVI: Sure. Yeah. [INAUDIBLE]
JACOB SPIEGEL: We have time for three questions.
YOSSI KLEIN HALEVI: [INAUDIBLE]
MOHAMMAD DARAWSHE: [INAUDIBLE]
EZRA STEIN: Hi. My name is as Ezra Stein. I'm a member of the Cornell chapter for Jewish Voice for Peace. We are a Jewish anti-Zionist org on this campus and nationally. So I just want to say, what I found, unfortunately, a little lacking in this conversation was just the Jewish anti-Zionist perspective. So I hope that my question can help bring that in.
So for Mr. Darawshe, you spoke of challenging the power structures inherent in Israel, the Israeli government today. You've also spoke of the nation-state law, which has officially codified Israel as an apartheid regime. And so my question is, what is the best way for Jews, particularly American Jews, to resist this power structure and challenge the power structure that currently exists in Israel?
MOHAMMAD DARAWSHE: If I speak here, everyone can hear me with this microphone? OK. Well, I find constructive engagement to be much more powerful than negative engagement. So I'm not involved in anti-Zionist movements-- not even as a Palestinian, because I think, at the end of the day, we will have to share the same homeland. Whether it is in the shape of two states or one state, I don't know. And that's why I don't want to create too much bad blood into the process of finding a solution.
So my battle is mostly how to challenge this power structure in an embracing way that embraces Israelis mainly from the mainstream, because the [INAUDIBLE] on the left, I have little disagreements with them. And my battle is how to win people from the center of Israeli Jewish society.
The nation-state law, which I think is a disgrace both for the state of Israel and for the Jewish people at large-- not just for the state of Israel but for the Jewish people at large, including the ones in this room. It's a disgrace that this amazing, wonderful nation produces a racist law like this.
And for me, I want to look for the Jews that are willing to defend their honor in not following a racist agenda. If I come to them as the blaming anti-Jewish, anti-Zionist-- and here, I'm not debating with you-- then, I feel that I will put them on the defensive. I don't want to put them on the defensive.
I want them to understand that they have a partner, a Palestinian partner who's willing to work with them on the right path, and not just to fight with them in the wrong path. I think that what you should be proud of is that there are 56 appeals in the Supreme Court against this nation-state law. One appeal says, this negates the Declaration of Independence.
The second appeal says, this negates the basic laws of human dignity and freedom, which were passed in the Israeli parliament in 1959. The third appeal says, it negates Judaism. There are 56 different arguments. That's where I find my partners.
So the more people like that we embrace, the better chances for success we have. I think that we are beyond the stage of thinking even that Israel is going to disappear. Israel is not going to disappear. Zionism is not going to disappear. The question is, are they going to evolve in a way that it will be more realistic and more inclusive?
So I do not accept Israel as is, but I'm not going to fight Israel. I'm going to engage in evolution process that Israelis would want to work with me, maybe out of self-interest, maybe not out of morality-- maybe more, probably, out of self-interest and less from morality-- to be able to get to a place where we can restructure the system in a way that I feel equal, because I'm not going to accept not being equal. I don't have an inferiority complex.
But I don't want to fight a battle that I cannot win in my generation, because I'm a parent. I have four kids. My big concern is to give them reasons to stay home, give them reasons not to leave and not to surrender and not to feel powerless so that they give up and leave.
AUDIENCE: I don't know why the Holocaust should be relevant to the discussion. Instead, talk about-- before 1948, all the land that Jews acquired that they didn't have for many generations was purchased. And there are approximately 750,000 Jews expelled from Arab lands. Why don't you talk about that, Mr. Halevi?
YOSSI KLEIN HALEVI: You're asking me?
YOSSI KLEIN HALEVI: I do deal with that in the book. And I don't remember the page number. But it's certainly in there. And I actually write about the Holocaust toward the very end of the book. And that was a deliberate decision, because I believe very strongly that the Jewish attachment to the land is actually not about the Holocaust.
And the perception-- the widespread perception-- in the Arab world is that it is about the Holocaust. And I think that that's probably one of the reasons for the Holocaust denial in the Arab world.
MOHAMMAD DARAWSHE: Mm-hmm.
YOSSI KLEIN HALEVI: It's trying to undermine what Arabs see as the central Jewish claim to the land. I certainly didn't move to Israel because of the Holocaust. As you put it, Jews didn't leave from one part of the Middle East to another part because of the Holocaust.
And that's very much an outdated notion, that Israeli identity somehow is dependent on the Holocaust. The Holocaust is very important for Israeli Jewish identity, as it is for American Jews. But it isn't the reason why most Israeli Jews are there.
We're there for the reason that you said, really, which is, it's not just a narrative. It has now-- the Jews have succeeded in re-indigenizing themselves to the point where that same tactile relationship with the land that you describe is beginning to be experienced now by one generation after another of Israeli Jews.
AUDIENCE: Thank you. My name is [INAUDIBLE]. So I am one of those political scientists, now a visiting professor here.
YOSSI KLEIN HALEVI: It's hard to hear. Sorry.
AUDIENCE: My name is [INAUDIBLE]. And I'm a political scientist, a visiting professor here at Cornell. And first of all, thank you for wonderful talks-- so much fine food for thought.
I find it very interesting that both of you have focused so much on the narrative and the normative elements of the conflict, emphasizing so much how important it is to get to know each other, to understand, to engage. But then, in each of those talks, you concluded with a very pragmatic note. We have to get into the practicalities of it.
And the thing is that for the last 30 years-- even more-- we have done exactly that. Over 26 years now-- the Oslo peace accord, mutual recognition between the PLO and Israel. That was all about the narrative, all about the normative dimensions. And then, they got into the practicalities. And we know how that ended in the mid '90s and then by the end of the 1990s.
And the question that I ask is, how do you see things being different, perhaps, now? Where is the ray of hope that you can try and spot, not in convincing the already persuaded, preaching to the choir, but reaching truly beyond that? Between yourself, for example, can you reach an accommodation on the key issue of, say, the refugees or Jerusalem? That would be interesting to hear. Thank you.
YOSSI KLEIN HALEVI: Would you like to answer?
MOHAMMAD DARAWSHE: Yeah. I think that if you give me two, three hours with Yossi, yes.
YOSSI KLEIN HALEVI: Maybe five or six. [LAUGHS]
MOHAMMAD DARAWSHE: You know what? Let's go for 10.
I think that most of the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic problems are solvable issues, whether it is the refugees or Jerusalem or the borders. These are the three key issues. And we were at stages that actually drafted solutions.
So in what's called the 2001 [INAUDIBLE] papers, they came to this concept that-- with the issue of refugees-- that first-generation Palestinians are the only ones that the concept of return would be applied to them. The Palestinians requested 180,000 Palestinians to be allowed. Israel said, only 30,000, under family reunification. The American negotiators said, how about 80,000, somewhere in the middle?
And if they would have been allowed to continue this process, they probably would have come up with a number. So if the concept of first-generation refugees is the resolution, you're talking about people who are 71 years of age, plus. Their impact on the demographics in Israel is going to be very temporary-- probably going to last for 5 to 15 years. These people are not going to be so reproductive at that age.
But it does provide some sense of justice for the Palestinians, that the right of return for the Palestinians was materialized-- maybe not the way they wanted it, and maybe not according to the sense of the Palestinian justice. But some justice was done. No absolute justice. I said it on the podium. I keep on saying now also-- no absolute justice. But there is a working formula that they started. And it was stopped when the negotiations stopped.
Same thing with Jerusalem, regarding visitation hours of Israeli Jews. And also which areas and neighborhoods-- Jewish neighborhoods under Jewish sovereignty, Palestinian Muslim neighborhoods under Muslim sovereignty. And they even suggested the possibility of the old city being under joint control or international kind of supervision.
And the borders-- is it 3% or 7%, with land swap, with equal value, not equal value, a pass between the West Bank and Gaza-- these are all technical problems. What you need is, again, two things. One, willing leadership and public; and second, capable leadership. You need leadership capable to move forward. They need to have it in themselves.
As I say, with Yossi, I can do it, because I think it's in him. If he was the leader with the power to decide, it's in him. He's capable to make the decision. And that's what we do not have right now.
So maybe we have a capable Israeli leader today-- Benjamin Netanyahu. But he's definitely not willing to go with the Palestinians. We have a very willing Palestinian leader. But he's not capable to deliver, at least, Gaza. He doesn't have the power within the Palestinian people.
And that's why I'm not sure that a solution can come from the current political leadership in Israel-- not from the Palestinians and not the Israelis. So dialogue is important on the level of people, because ultimately, whatever resolution will be imposed will require people's willingness to accept it.
But the decision has to come from higher forces, in my view. Neither the Israelis are willing and capable. Neither the Palestinians are willing and capable to move into that direction. Do we need the bottom-- we talk mostly about the bottom up. Bottom up cannot resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It can create the ground. You need the top down imposition of the conflict. And that's not in the hands of the current leaders in the field.
You want to comment on that?
YOSSI KLEIN HALEVI: No. That's--
MOHAMMAD DARAWSHE: You see?
YOSSI KLEIN HALEVI: You spoke for me. [LAUGHS]
MOHAMMAD DARAWSHE: One hour.
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Join Cornell Hillel for a conversation between Israeli thought leader Yossi Klein Halevi and Mohammad Darawshe, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and civil society leader, as they discuss their stories, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the possibility of a shared future together.